Rags 'n' riches

august 29, 2008.

ikikik "Me, me, me!", that's what the Amsterdam based Mediamatic calls its current series of events centered on 'Identity and Self-representation on the Internet', a series that - accidentally, or not - accompanies the ongoing ado in the Netherlands on the 'yes/no' and/or 'how much?' of public funding for the dutch media- (and other-) cultural institutions, several of which still face the threat of sudden and drastic cuts in a very near future.

It also came with its moving house: from the industrial (former postal services) building Post CS ( * ) to a space within the gray former ABN/AMRO office building in the Vijzelstraat, where 'Mediamatic' became Mediamatic Bank ...

Even though personally I totally dislike the Vijzelstraat (for some reason that street to me designates depression, wind and rain, even on bright and happy days), for Mediamatic I think this is a good move.

do not climb the mountain

I visited Mediamatic a couple of weeks ago, and came upon a mountain of second hand clothing, provided by the Leger des Heils (the dutch Salvation Army), some tables with sewing machines and sewing kits, a couple of tailor's dummies, and a wall lined with hand-decorated sneakers. It was the setting for a series of fashion (and catwalk) workshops ("Upcycle Yourself"), in the course of which you may learn from young fashion designers how to re-design and re-create second hand clothing into something ... well, eh ... new. To re-present yourself. For example on the internet. All of this partially lead, and inspired, by the work of parisian 'activist' fashion collective Andrea Crews.

I was quickly seduced. First, I am an absolute sucker for thrift stores and almost anything that has been 'formerly owned'. Second, I was much intrigued by the near paradoxical opposition between the event's (intellecto-bombastico) sub-text - 'identity and self-representation on the internet' - and the so un-pretentious hands-on playfulness of what actually appeared to be going on. That's a good sign.

On another - technologies nouvelles - hand: I shot the above picture picture using the RFID photo booth technique that Mediamatic developed. You may ask one of the staff to prepare you (with a laptop on a corner of the bar) a little pink and green "ik" heart. It contains an RFID-tag that is linked to your personal profile page on the Mediamatic website. rfid safe box You can use the tag to take pictures of yourself at a couple of spots in the Mediamatic space, which are then automatically uploaded and added to your profile page. Now that of course is nice, and good fun, but ... what if you are - rightfully - worrying about the many (future and present) dangers of these and related 'tracking technologies'? Then you just stow away your 'ik'-tag in one of the small metal RFID-safe boxes, also from Mediamatic, that will keep your tag from being tracked ...

Here's two shots of me wearing the pair of sekppku pants that my son tailor-made for me during the august 13th Upcycle Yourself workshop :

Har$ sekppku

For, you see, I am not a sewing-machine kind of a person myself, so I actually had the kids labor away, pimping and upcycling stuff for themselves as well as for me ... Meanwhile I sat around. I had a coffee, read newspapers, wrote a couple of lines here and there ... I watched the girls and boys that were diligently cutting, folding and sewing, and listened to the electrical humming of the machines and the many different rustling sounds made by cloth, garments and those that were handling them. I reflected upon the rags and riches, that in the large and quiet of the former banking space now occupied by Mediamatic, suddenly - more than ever - seemed to impose itself as a theme. For there, but as much for elsewhere.

On the huge pile of clothing to be re-used, and to which regularly fresh stock is added, there stuck a sign. If you look carefully at the picture you may see and even read it. It says: "Do not climb the mountain".

That applied to the rags.
It also applies to the riches.

[ You may visit the "ikikik!" DIY-fashion show and workshops at Mediamatic in the Vijzelstraat in Amsterdam until september 14th, 2008. The project series on 'Identity and self-representation on the internet' continues this fall, with two more themes: "Transgender, body and beauty manipulation" and "Death". ]

[ Earlier related SB-entry: All Hallows Trivia (ii) - El Hema ]

notes __ ::
(*) The Post CS building is next to the Central Station. During the past four years and until october 1st, 2008, it also has been home to the modern art museum, the Stedelijk Museum. The Stedelijk is still awaiting the moment it can re-use its official housing on the Museumplein, that currently is undergoing a complex and costly re-decoration, which just goes on and on. The museum can not go back there before december 2009, whence the curious fact that, for over a year and probably even longer, Amsterdam's collection of modern art will be homeless: sans domicile fixe. (The museum, interestingly, intends to spend that period in a true nomadic way, and roam the streets of the city ...) [ ^ ]

tags: amsterdam, mediamatic, fashion, rfid

# .272.

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Spiegeltje, spiegeltje ...

august 27, 2008.

" ... un cupidon en train de pisser
les effets sonores ... " ( * )

[ podcast :: sbpc 24 ... s ]

After DIKTAT doing this year's 72 hours Parisian Placard's finale, at la Nouvelle Générale in Sèvres; after our - for a whole number of reasons - extra/ordinary Sturm der Liebe (Orage d'Amour)diktat cour _Big Band_ performance at La Comète 347; after the sweetish 'unplugged, biodegradable and bio-équitable' sessions at Belleville's la Veilleuse; and in the wake of our tribute to Michel Waisvisz during Bastille Day's Songs of Praise emission ...; as much as the A Table!-trio (with Jean-Jacques Duerinckx - sopranino sax - and Elena Dunkelman - vocals - at the Sèvres placard on the evening of friday july 11th) was a prelude to a series of memorable summer EAI events: when with Rinus van Alebeek I went for a duo-performance at Menilmontant's Miroiterie on the evening of thursday july 17th, this felt as a mere afterthought ...

The event at the Miroiterie was organized by the Kliton collective. Kliton organises this type of fringe-event in the french capital since late 2002. They deserve respect, for their ongoing efforts and ceaseless idealism. It won't be easy to find a 'musique alternative' event organizer in Paris that is more politically correct. For instance: every penny is accounted for. In detail. Online ... On the Kliton Treasury page, for starters, you will see that on july 17th at La Miroiterie, there were (about) 70 paying visitors; each one paid (about) €4; together that made for (precisely) €269. Next, you see that the organization spent €33 on food ... Now that money was well-spent. Enrique served us some sort of a cross between pie and pizza in the Miroiterie's yard. It was really good. Home made.flyer It came with wine, beer and water. Maybe there also was some juice, I can't remember. But the sitting around, the eating and the drinking were fun ways to get to know the others. I chatted with a couple of the Stig Noise Sound System guys, from Liverpool, who had come to Paris to play one of their last gigs on a two week "western Europe is for weaklings" tour-in-a-van. It had led them from Amsterdam to the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and then back to the west, to Germany and France.
A bit earlier I had watched the band's sound check for a while; and because they had a guy playing a slide guitar, I somehow took it for granted that these were the Hawaiian Spasms ... I am so awful with names ... Only got the identities right when I saw on the payroll, that in fact it was Stig Noise who got €140. So they were the touring band, coming from abroad. (Ero Babaa only got a tenner. But then these two noisy kids were locals. Thus is Kliton's - very just - policy.) Anyway, Stig Noise deserved every penny they got. If I were a rich man, I would have tripled their pay for the evening. Because I had fun, because they had fun. Somehow it didn't matter at all that the sound was crappy and distorted, that the trumpet could be seen but often hardly heard ... Whereas most bands at the beginning of a show start to play, the Stig Noisers did not. They exploded. The band played very loud and sounded very misty, so much so, that I had the impression that when playing they inflated the tiny Miroiterie. The squat's walls seemed to be made out of rubber. When the band played, the space somehow inhaled, it absorbed the sonic mist; and it swelled. And when they stopped ... But never mind the loud, never mind the misty. Never mind the ... inflation ... I had an awful lot of fun standing there, listening, watching and regularly being bumped into by a handful of punks swaying and jumping around the small place. Many of the Stig Noise Sound System's pieces turned out to be rather curious musical brews involving sudden changes and surprises, interesting at times, built from a great many disparate elements. Apart from the powerful drums and bass, the elasticcy dread locked guitar, the brass band trumpet and the exotic slide, Stig Noise used a lot of 'toy' electronics and a whole lot of percussive thingies at one point or another. But never ever even they came close to seeming pretentious. There was always that great drive, and energy, and fun. With a lot of climbing, crawling and jumping, this wasn't a concert. It was a party.

But if they, despite the slide guitarist and all of their twirling and jumping, were no Hawaiian Spasms, who then were ? ...

Hawaiian Spasms was Jean-Philippe's solo-act. (I am afraid that I did not catch his last name.) He is from Rebais, a small village some eighty kilometers to the east of Paris, where he is living on a farm. Jean-Philippe goes to work in Marne-la-Vallée (that's where you find Euro Disney, some 60 kilometers closer to Paris than is Rebais). "Marne-la-Vallée is a horrible place, I hate it. Everyone should," Jean-Philippe told me. It is part of the large ring of quickly expanding parisian suburbs, with a lot of quickly built prefab housing. "How is it possible to live there and in such a way?" he asked. The prefab quality of Marne-la-Vallée inspired his set for the evening. "J'ai traversé des rues désertes, avec plein d'enfants qui jouaient dans les rues, pas de jardins ... c'est choquant. C'est pour ça que ce soir je vais faire que du pré-fabriqué ..."

Here are two pictures of a strange beep-machine that Jean-Philippe brought along to the Miroiterie. Notwithstanding Stig Noise Sound System's fabulous show, this was the evening's real star : the RT. 220 ME, somehow, sometime, to some purpose made in France by a company called SME, based in Paris.

Spasms Machine Spasms Machine

Jean-Philippe found it in Marne-la-Vallée, in a dustbin on the parking lot of a shopping mall. As you probably can see in the pictures (click to enlarge), it is a rather big and heavy black thing. It has a built-in loudspeaker, but on its backside there is also a (2 pin DIN) connection for an external one, opposite a white and a red plastic button. One would think these to be like 'on' and 'off' buttons, but actually I couldn't be completely sure about that. What does it do? It is emitting beeps ... But it does not do so continuously. As it was standing around with us here and there in the yard of La Miroiterie, it seemed to be reacting to us. But did it really? Sometimes it stopped beeping. But then, as someone approached it, it started up again. Still, it was not really clear in precisely what way it reacted. And there was nothing about the box that made it apparent how it might be able to 'sense' presence or movement.

So what sort of a machine is this? Is it an alarm? Something meant to control something else? I have no idea, really, and neither had anyone else that evening. I tried, of course, some googling. But also that did not give me any further clues ... It is powered by a pack of 3R12 zinc-chloride long-life batteries, which - as far as I was able to see - actually took up most of the space inside the box. I did not see an alternative power entry.

The batteries were inside when Jean-Philippe found it, and still working. The thing was beeping out to him like an abandoned baby. Or a stranded alien. Now Jean-Philippe himself told me that in fact he doesn't want to know what it is - or what it was. It would of course spoil the mystery ... I can understand that. But this doesn't hold for me. I would love to know, so if you have any ideas, or suggestions, please comment away ...
I won't tell Jean-Philippe ...

You hear the sounds made by the RT. 220 ME throughout the six and a half minutes of s this SB entry's podcast. There's also some talking, most notably by one of the Stig Noisers (in english), and by Jean-Philippe (in french). Do you hear how it is as if the RT. 220 ME actually participates in all of the chit-chat that went on in La Miroiterie's yard that evening? Is it a machine ... ? The podcast ends with a short lo-fi (of course) impression of the Stig Noise Sound System performance at La Miroiterie. Distorted, as you might have guessed. It was too much already for most ears, so certainly it was for my SONY dictaphone ...

Together with Rinus, we were the final act that evening at La Miroiterie, right after the Stig Noise Sound System. At times we were very soft, walking around and holding up dictaphones to a handful of left-over listeners ears. That was nice. Then at times, also, we were very loud. For the 'loud' I used no more than an old Philips cassette player, and 'played' the player with a contact mike plugged into one of Stig Noise's guitar amps. I don't do that usually, but what you get is no longer an 'instrument'. It's a weapon ... To me large parts felt like a freeze within the sound of a huge mirror at the precise moment of its 'smashing' ... Also Rinus played something dictaphone through a guitar-amp, but all was sort of chaotic, so I can't really remember what ...

Rinus was disappointed afterwards, as he had mis-plugged his four-track cassette thing, that should have provided a broad layer of low, to fill the space, wall-to-wall, with, like Rinus usually puts it, a 'whhaaaaaahhhh', a 'zjvlèèèèuuaaaammmm' and then kind of a 'vrjammbbaaaaaaaa' and 'brzzzzzzzzzzaaaachhhhh'. It might have mattered, or maybe not. Whatever ... we had to stick to mirror crashing. Which of course is sort of appropriate in a miroiterie.
But maybe we should have been louder! Though to be able to control (and the louder things get, the more difficult controlling it gets), really, one would at least need one's own gear. Now we were sort of an unguided missile :-)
Oh, and I forgot to record.
I may therefore declare it 'mythic': in my head only.


Rinus got €40.
I got nil. But then I was a local, and not even on the bill.

notes __ ::
(*) I read that sentence this summer at Ile-de-Ré's plage de la Conche, somewhere halfway the french translation (by Maryvonne Ssossé) of Dougland Coupland's novel "All families are psychotic". I found that the english text reads: "A peeing cupid supplied sound effects" ... Had I been reading the original, I don't think the phrase would have caught my attention, as it lacks the flow and rhythm that in the french translation makes the first six words seem almost onomatopoeic ... That translated sentence, as I saw it - as I heard it - and written up as it is here, for me evoked a vision of place, time and event that pretty much rendered the rest of Coupland's cartoonish, but somewhat tedious, too long and un-funny, novel blatantly superfluous. [ ^ ]

tags: Paris, Miroiterie

# .271.

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